Farmers Union, Farm Bureau leaders expect farm bill this year |

Farmers Union, Farm Bureau leaders expect farm bill this year

From left, Andrew Walmsley of the American Farm Bureau Federation and Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union discuss the 2018 farm bill at the International Sweetener Symposium in Traverse City, Mich., Wednesday. At right is moderator Ryan Weston, CEO of the Florida Sugar Cane League.
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson and Andrew Walmsley, director of government relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said here Wednesday at the International Sweetener Symposium that they expect congress to finish the farm bill this year.

Johnson said that even after spending nine years in Washington, he finds it difficult to predict what congress will do when, but that it is likely the bill will be done this year and before the election.

Walmsley said he believes the conference report will be done “sooner rather than later.”

Johnson and Walmsley also agreed that the decision of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to appoint himself to the conference committee and his intense interest in the hemp legalization provisions means that he will push hard to get the conference report written and passed.

They also said that low commodity prices and low incomes give congress more reason to pass the bill as soon as possible.

“Farm incomes are down more than 50 percent since 2013,” Walmsley explained. “And USDA predicts that they will stay below 2013 levels for the next decade.”

“Farming is a money-losing proposition right now,” Johnson said, pointing to USDA data showing a negative median farm income this year. “Debt is up and bankruptcies are accelerating.”

Johnson added that he believes critics of farm support such as the sugar program had a hard time making their case this year because “it’s a little unseemly to pick on folks when they’re down.”

Walmsley said he believes Farm Bureau has a good case in lobbying for the farm bill because “We’re trying to preserve a way of life.”

The two farm leaders also made visual presentations of their members’ priorities in the farm bill and other concerns about agriculture.Far

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